Looking for a pair of sunglasses? Why not pick up a pair of shades handcrafted from sustainable material.
Pick up a pair of Proof Sunglasses and protect your eyes in style,
To find out more behind how Proof got its start and what’s in store for the future, Josh interviews Proof founder, Tanner Dame
More about the episode...
Josh sits down with Proof founder Tanner Dame. To tell the story of Proof Eyewear we need to go beyond the their official launch date of 2010 and start in 1954 when the Dame brother’s grandfather started a sawmill in Idaho. It was at that very sawmill that Tanner and his brothers would create their first pair of wooden sunglasses which would spare a fire and passion to create. In this episode Josh has the luxury of sitting down with Tanner as he talks about how he combined family values, sustainable materials, and strong social action to create Proof Eyewear, and how a simple pair of wooden sunglasses turned into a blossoming and boom outdoor startup.
Have an opinion? We want to hear it! Join the conversation and leave a comment, check out show notes, and get all the links mentioned in this episode below
- Start searching for that perfect pair of shades
- More about Proof
- Proof’s very own Do Good Program
- Follow Proof on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest
- Proof Eyewear on Shark Tank
What is Proof Eyewear all about?
“...We focus on creating the most sustainable sunglass and optical frames in the world. We started with our wood collection and evolved into other materials like cotton-based acetate, recycled aluminum, and skateboard decks.”
How did you get into the eyewear biz?
“...My grandfather started a wood sawmill in the 1960’s and that’s been in the family since before I can remember...Growing up we spent a lot of our adolescence working in the sawmill in the summers...My brother came to me and he said “hey I have this idea; I came across these bamboo reading glasses that are really vintage. I think it would be cool to do our own concept”…I was really interested and said ‘hey let’s do this’...”
What did you do to build Proof Eyewear?
“It was just trial by fire honestly, we didn’t have much direction or a real roadmap but, we decided to just jump into it…”
What did you do to prototype your product?
“We started specifically in wood and we developed three styles at the time that we felt were trendy and interesting...A lot of it was just getting early feedback from customers…”
Do you produce all of your eyewear locally?
“As far as our manufacturing process goes, within eyewear there are really two hubs; either italy or china...within these hubs, there are specific regions that are known for eyewear manufacturing where you can go from one factory to another and find every component of a sunglass or optical frame in that specific city…”
What does Proof do to giveback?
“Early on when sat down and worked out our idea, we had a conversation about what we wanted to be and agreed that this is our opportunity to create something meaningful to us and believed in...All three of us lived in third world countries...We’d seen the opportunities that we’ve received and we’ve seen the opposite of that, so we decided proof would have some form of giveback messaging…”
Did you have any mentors that specifically helped build Proof Eyewear?
“...When we started the business it wasn’t just ‘two buddies starting a business just for fun’ it was nice to have family members or brothers that we could trust and bounce ideas off of…”
What was it like being on Shark Tank?
“We’ve probably tripled or quadrupled the size of our business at the time...In the long term, accounts have followed up within the months that followed the airing of our episode...We’ll go to trade shows and people will recognize us from Shark Tank, so it’s still something that helps with brand awareness…”
Did you ever find your perfect partner?
“Not really, since then we had a lot of outside investors approached us and, for them it was more about return on investment and it wasn’t about the partnership…”
What would you say is the hardest parts about starting Proof Eyewear?
“I’d say the perseverance aspect. Luckily enough, I think we’re all perseverant in our own way, we don’t throw in the towel too easily...It’s not easy to start a business and as long as you’re willing to accept the challenge then it’s going to be quite a ride…”
What is your greatest fear and how do you manage it, in regards to Proof Eyewear?
“...For us it’s, how do we make our mark and how do we make sure that we’re not just doing other people are doing...Our names tied to this so making sure our name is represented well is a big fear…”
What are some of the biggest mistakes you’ve made with Proof Eyewear?
“...We got scammed on a bankwire. We sent bankwires to our manufactures and overtime somebody had gotten in between the manufacturer and ourselves...Once it was time to pay for our goods we ended up wiring to them and not our manufacturer…”
What advice would you give someone that wants to start a business in the outdoor industry?
“Really study what makes your product different...Find what makes your business unique and figure out if that specific aspect of uniqueness is something that people would buy…”
Where do you see Proof Eyewear headed into the future?
“Our objective is to make Proof a household name...We’re doing around $15,000 to $20,000 on an international project a year. In the next five years we’d like to double that…”
What is the best part about running Proof Eyewear?
“The creativity behind it. The fact that no two days are the same, everyday is a challenge...There’s no roadmap or guidebook for us but, that makes it fun and gives us opportunity to get creative...